Recollections of a Bleeding Heart

keating the show

(by Don Watson) A portrait both affectionate and sharp, of Paul Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister from 1991 to 1996, beautifully written and constructed by his ‘bleeding heart’ speechwriter (scribbling for him 1992-96).  For all his faults, Keating was a remarkable polemicist and his panache, once he had got to grips with a concept, or a slip by the enemy, was extraordinary. Best example: turning John Hewson’s budget reply charge that Keating would “pull everyone down to the lowest common denominator” into a lethal riposte: “Nothing Keating said in 1992 was as good as this. John Hewson had defined himself as Gordon Gecko….

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The Problem of Knowledge

tehproblem of knowledge

(by A.J. Ayer) Ayer is a blind alley, albeit a convincing one.  Yet logic and semantics will take us only so far and reading him, one thinks, “you’re too clever by half…..too clever for our good.” We recently had a comment (by someone with the nom de plume “Butt Books”, has commented fit for posterity: “True – logic and semantics will take us only so far. The analytic tradition won’t venture into the realm of speculative metaphysics, obscurantism, and autofellatio. One must turn to the continental tradition for that.“

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The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

justified sinner cover 1

(by James Hogg) The protagonist, Robert Wringhim, finds himself spiraling deeper into a vortex of evil. Luckily there’s a mysterious but nice young chap to ‘guide’ him on his way. A towering, fascinating ‘mystery’ novel, revealing how dangerous it is to mix Calvinism and Old Scratch.

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primary cover

(dir. D.A. Pennebaker) (1960) (Redux 2013) Very slight and grainy documentary by today’s standards. Clearly an outsider’s view, despite the intimacy of the footage. Hubert Humphrey was the only candidate heard discussing policy: hence you knew he was doomed.

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Power Without Glory

power without glory

(by Frank Hardy) Never mind that Hardy was an unreconstructed Commo; this is a great, great-big book, a scandalous roman-a-clef based on a Collingwood Mafioso, John Wren and his rise (and rise).  Blessed with no literary touches but a lot of narrative drive, the book has become, in its unpretentious way, a landmark of Australian literature.  Hardy had to overcome a myriad hurdles to get his work published and only then did his troubles really begin, in the form of various reprisals, including an almost ruinous trial for criminal libel.

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